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Library Basics: Journals and Magazines

Guides to getting started at University Libraries. Search tips, source evaluation, and more.

Scholarly vs Popular vs Trade


http://www.flickr.com/photos/38117207@N03/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Different types of publications have different purposes and different audiences. When we talk about journals and magazines, we can usually divide these publications into three broad categories: scholarly, popular, and trade.

One very important difference between scholarly journals and other types of publications is peer review. Watch Peer Review in Three Minutes to learn what this means and why it's important to your research.

How do you know if an article you've found in a database is from a scholarly journal? Consult this table:

 

Scholarly

 

Popular

 

Trade

Written by

Authorities in the field, such as professors or researchers. Often an article has several authors.

 

Journalists, staff writers, or freelance writers. Usually an article has only one author. Sometimes no author is listed.

 

Specialists in the field. Usually an article has only one author. Sometimes no author is listed.

Written for

Other authorities and scholars in the field. Authors expect readers to understand specialized language. The tone of the writing is formal.

 

A general audience. Often written to entertain as well as to inform. Authors explain terms the reader might not be familiar with. The tone is usually informal.

 

People who work in the field. Written to offer practical information, news, etc. Authors expect readers to understand specialized language.

Sources cited

Sources are cited in a formal style in endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies.

 

Sources may be mentioned, but are unlikely to be cited formally.

 

Sources may be mentioned, but are unlikely to be cited formally.

Appearance

Usually has formal, labeled sections for the abstract, conclusions, bibliography, etc. If there are any images, they are probably charts, graphs, or tables.

 

No abstract or other formal sections. Images are large and colorful in a PDF file; in an HTML version, there will be placeholders like [color photo].

 

Unlikely to have formal sections. Images are usually intended to illustrate concepts rather than decorate the page.

Peer review

Yes

 

No

 

No

Often a database will even tell you whether a journal is scholarly or not.

If this information is not available, you can look up almost any publication in Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory, a database available through BGSU Libraries.

Give It a Try!

See how the table above applies to the following examples of scholarly, popular, and trade articles about post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. Click the titles to view the articles online. Clicking on the other links in the table will take you to images that illustrate how these criteria apply to each article.


"Posttraumatic Stress Disorder as a Risk Factor for Suicidal Ideation in Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans"

"The Hell of PTSD"

"Innovative Therapies for Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" 



from Journal of Traumatic Stress from TIME

from Mental Health Business Week


Written by

Check for the author(s).

Check for the author(s).

Check for the author(s).

Written for

Read a bit of the text. Is it formal? Does it sound like something anyone could pick up and understand?

Read a bit of the text. Is it formal? Does it sound like something anyone could pick up and understand?

Read a bit of the text. Is it formal? Does it sound like something anyone could pick up and understand?

Sources cited

Are sources cited formally?

Are sources cited formally?

Are sources cited formally?

Appearance

Look for images and formal sections.

Look for images and formal sections.

Look for images and formal sections.

Peer review

Click on the Source name in Academic Search Complete, or look up the journal title in Ulrich's.

Click on the Source name in Academic Search Complete, or look up the journal title in Ulrich's.

Click on the Source name in Academic Search Complete, or look up the journal title in Ulrich's.

Beware!

Beware: Scholarly journals can contain non-scholarly articles!

For example, many scholarly journals publish book reviews and letters to the editor. These are not peer-reviewed, but they will show up in database search results even if you check the option to receive only results from scholarly/academic journals.

Luckily, you can spot these articles easily. They don't cite their sources formally, they don't have formal sections, and they are often very short. Many databases also label these types of articles to make it easier for you.

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